DEAN ELGAR staked a claim for a more permanent role in the Proteas Castle Lager Test starting line-up with the stand-out innings on the opening day of the second Sunfoil Test match at Axxess St. George’s on Thursday.
Fulfilling his specialist position of opening batsman for the first time in the eight Test matches he has played to date he played a vital role in stopping the slickly running Australian machine in its tracks after the Proteas won the toss and lost two wickets for 11 runs with both Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla back in the pavilion.
Elgar and Faf du Plessis regrouped the innings with a third wicket partnership of 112 that enabled the Proteas to finish the day on 214/5 after 83 overs with play being halted 20 minutes early through bad light. It was a major improvement from 11/2 but the Proteas will still be disappointed as both Elgar and new cap Quinton de Kock got out to loose shots and their position could have been appreciably stronger.
Indeed, it was a feature of the day that the Proteas kept on allowing Australia back into the game every time they looked like building a strong position.
Elgar made 83 (193 balls, 9 fours and 2 sixes) while Du Plessis’ 55 came off 126 balls with 5 fours and 1 six).
AB de Villiers continued his role as Mr. Consistency, going to his 12th half-century in consecutive Test matches to finish the day on 51 (126 balls, 7 fours). It was a sign of the slowness of the pitch and the difficulty the batsmen had in scoring runs that this gifted striker of the ball had a strike rate of only 40.47 which was marginally worse than both Elgar and Du Plessis (both 43).
The Australian attack adjusted its bowling plans well to the conditions that were entirely different from those they had encountered in the first Test match at SuperSport Park. Ryan Harris was probably the pick of the attack although Nathan Lyon looks the bowler most likely to play a significant role in the match after breaking both the main South African partnerships (112 for the third and 58 for the fourth). His figures of 2/47 in 23 overs were well merited.
From a Protea viewpoint the day belonged to Elgar. He displayed considerable mental and physical strength in grabbing the opportunity given him by the illness that ruled Alviro Petersen out of the game. His innings was an object lesson in how to deal with the menace of Mitchell Johnson as he dropped his hands to keep his bat and gloves out of harm’s way against the shorter deliveries and being prepared to take his share of bruises about the shoulder.
It was exactly the spirit of resistance needed after the disastrous first Test match.
With Petersen and Ryan McLaren both ruled out through illness and injury respectively, the selectors made three changes, bringing in Elgar, De Kock and Wayne Parnell with Robin Peterson the additional player to drop out.
Australia, not surprisingly, named an unchanged starting XI.